by Mike Humphrey
What’s the most important thing about campaign marketing?
Having worked with numerous political campaigns, I have seen vigorous marketing efforts minimized by a misunderstanding of the hierarchy of marketing and the building of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
I will be the first to say that every campaign is different, for obvious reasons. Most campaigns also have limited resources to execute their marketing efforts. So how do you tailor to your specific voter base without going down misguided rabbit holes? If we follow some key marketing principles which you can tailor to your individual campaign, you can produce better marketing content and feel more confident that your efforts are effective.
Creating Your Base Calendar
I am stating the obvious, but you will need to set up your calendar. You be directionless unless you chart the campaign’s start, the finish, and the journey in between. Here is a list of things I recommend adding to your calendar:
- All Holidays: no matter how obscure, as these can provide fun marketing opportunities
- Election Dates: dates for primary election, general election, mail-in ballots, state mandated reporting, etc.
- Personal Dates: for you and noted members of your voting community: birthdays, anniversaries, awards, etc.
- Important Community Dates: back to school, fairs, parades, food-fests, public government meetings, non-profit fundraisers, etc.
- Marketing Deadlines: deadlines and cutoffs for Social media political ads, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc.; Local media political coverage calendars; processing time for printed material and advertising approvals, etc.
- Strategy Mapping: this add to your calendar the items discussed in the rest of this article.
Building Voter Personas
Who are the residents most likely to vote for you? Who is least likely? What appeals or repulses them? What are their demographics, their news sources, their preferred modes of communication, their values, their concerns, their needs? Answering these questions, and more, can provide you with a better understand who you need to communicate with. It will bring you much needed focus to creating content that will appeal to your target voters.
And let’s me honest: You will never win every vote. So don’t try. But it is critically important to know who you already have in your corner, and who you have the chance to persuade. This is where your efforts should be concentrated.
Once you have created your personas, the next question that you need to ask is, “What do I want my content to do?” The answer will create the structure and discipline to your efforts.
There is a reason we call it “social” media. It works best when it interacts with other people. The trick to great content is to first know what interaction that you want. Then you design your content that creates that interaction.
We will get to content variety later, but for now we will discuss the levels of interaction that will guide your strategy.
- First Level: Awareness – At bare minimum, political candidates need to get their name recognized to get elected. More importantly, that name needs to represent things that your voter personas will embrace. I recommend asking a few people that you know to name your best attributes: Are you a Leader? An Advocate? An Organizer? An Innovator? An Educator? A Nurturer? I can keep going, but you get the point. From that list, choose the attributes that best align with your target voters, and tie those to your marketing messages.
- Second Level: Engagement – Once your target voters start to know who you are, the next stage is to create messages that trigger opportunities to engage. You can’t get volunteers to help unless you engage. You can’t raise money unless you engage. And you can’t change hearts and minds without engagement. This is also a great opportunity to listen and fine-tune how you communicate your issues. At this level you should create communications which elicit responses. Ask for opinions, create polls, create a list and ask for submissions. And encourage people to like, comment and share anything you post on social media. Every one of these is an opportunity to thank them, respond to their opinions or concerns, and to ask them more questions. Listening is a tremendous skill in the engagement process.
- Third Level: Conversion/Persuasion – We like to think that if we jump right to creating the perfectly-worded mailer, or filming a video that makes you look really good, that it will change minds. But it won’t. If you have not built awareness and created engagement, persuading your target voters becomes nearly impossible. It is the trust that you have built, and the personal connections you have engaged in, that presents opportunities for you to win over voters.
Content Marketing Expert Mark Schaefer has developed the RITES method for developing effective and meaningful content. Each time you create a marketing message or social media post, use RITES to answer the core creative questions, and determine if it gets you any closer to awareness, engagement, or conversion:
- Is it RELEVANT – Does this mean something to other people?
- Is it INTERESTING – Is it presented in a way and with a context that will be memorable?
- Is it TIMELY – Does it make sense today?
- Is it ENTERTAINING – Does it capture the attention of your audience?
- Is it SUPERIOR – Is it better then what your opponents are creating?
By creating your base calendar, building your target voter personas, develop your content hierarchy, and setting your standards for creating effective marketing content, you are now ready to implement the more obvious things, such as selecting the digital marketing tools, social media platforms, and content creation. More importantly, it will build focus and structure, providing a clear understanding of the staffing and volunteer you need, the funding you will need, and the ability to act with speed and consistently to unexpected marketing opportunites. After all, you are in this to win.
About the Author: Michael Humphrey is the Founder of Visual Breakthroughs, providing video production, graphic design, and digital marketing services to political campaigns of all sizes. For more than thirty years he has managed and coached world-renown keynote speakers, and is an elected official in New Jersey. Mike provides candidates with personalized training in speech communications, platform development, digital campaigning, marketing, and campaign strategy, and has worked with numerous campaigns ranging from state races to municipal elections. Learn more at www.visualbreakthroughs.com/campaigns.